02 September 2011

Master Studies 1: Teachings of Richard Schmid

In the next few months, I'll be painting master studies as a supplement to classes at Watts.  I've done a few in the past (after  Zorn , Zorn and Rembrandt), so I know their extreme value as learning tools.  It's a tried-and-true approach...inexpensive, efficient, broad in scope, and the master teacher is always available.  Master studies reveal all the subtleties in a painting, details that just do not register on a quick glance.  They show you how the master applies "the rules".  My goal with these studies is to improve my brushwork...to push the paint around with more finesse.  I also want to focus on hair and backgrounds...2 of my weaker areas.

My Friend Bill, after Richard Schmid, 9 x 12"

Today's teacher is Richard Schmid.  If you don't know his work, check out this encyclopedic blog post at Lines and Colors.  I love the random energy and freshness of Schmid's brushwork.  He pushes and pulls the backgrounds and foregrounds into each other, back and forth into a seamless integration.  And he's a master of drybrushing, which he defines as "a brushing technique in which a clean dry bristle brush is used to pick up a small amount of undiluted pigment and is then dragged across the painting surface.  In this way, the paint is deposited on the tooth or texture of the surface."  The textural drybrush stroke is evident everywhere in Schmid's work. An important technique to master...also used often by Zorn.

Captain Don, after Richard Schmid, 14 x 11"

A few key things I learned from these studies: 
  • Add a few really crisp, hard edges to balance the softness in the subject. 
  • Lose edges when possible to integrate the subject into the background and add interest.
  • Contrast those lost edges with a few thick, juicy strokes near the focal point to pop the image. When I look at any painting, I like to cover those "zingers" to understand their role in the overall balance of the painting.  Amazing the impact of a simple, well-placed stroke.
  • Finally, try pushing a loaded paintbrush against the direction of the hairs for some nice textures without a chunky block of paint at the start of the stroke.  I've seen Schmid do this in his landscape paintings.  Nice effect.
  • I like the look of an opaque light stroke over a transparent darker one.  Visible on the hair in all studies posted here.

Sapphire, after Richard Schmid, 11 x 14"

The images for these studies came from Schmid's book Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting.  After a quick linear block-in by hand with thinned paint, I painted these on linen board in about 4 hours.

Loveland Gentleman, after Richard Schmid, 9 x 12"

You can watch Schmid paint an alla prima portrait in the video The Captain's Portrait: An Afternoon of Painting with Richard Schmid.  The video is VHS format, I just purchase it but haven't had a chance to view it yet.

Also, Dan Gerhartz's recent blog post on the value of master studies is worth a view.  Dan is presenting on this topic at Weekend with the Masters here in California in a few weeks, so I'm sure it's on his mind at the moment.


  1. Quite impressive, Candace.
    Schmid is a fave of our family, I love working loose and dry, and as you well illustrated it can be done quickly, it keeps one from over working a painting, and the life remains. You've done wonderfully.

  2. Fascinating work.
    It has been delightful
    to visit your gallery.
    Good Creations

  3. Tina. Agreed, it is so easy to overwork a painting, one of the main reasons I started with Schmid. I like his good advice to lay down the brush stroke, then leave it alone. A great lesson in self-control.

  4. BrandNewStudio, Thanks for your comment and visit. Best, Candace.

  5. Hi Candace, so glad you found my blog cause that led me to your beautiful blog! You are very talented! Wow, to see Richard Schmid paint was quite an opportunity. Your paintings are gorgeous, all those cools and warms together are lovely.
    I will be checking back regularly,

  6. great post and excellent studies. Thank you!